Have you ever had a strange urge to jump from a tall building, or steer your car into oncoming traffic? You are not alone. In this captivating fusion of science, history and personal memoir, writer David Adam explores the weird thoughts that exist within every mind, and how they drive millions of us towards obsessions and compulsions.
David has suffered from OCD for twenty years, and The Man Who Couldn't Stop is his unflinchingly honest attempt to understand the condition and his experiences. What might lead an Ethiopian schoolgirl to eat a wall of her house, piece by piece; or a pair of brothers to die beneath an avalanche of household junk that they had compulsively hoarded? At what point does a harmless idea, a snowflake in a clear summer sky, become a blinding blizzard of unwanted thoughts? Drawing on the latest research on the brain, as well as historical accounts of patients and their treatments, this is a book that will challenge the way you think about what is normal, and what is mental illness.
Told with fierce clarity, humour and urgent lyricism, this extraordinary book is both the haunting story of a personal nightmare, and a fascinating doorway into the darkest corners of our minds.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Science journalist David Adam has visited fascinating locales like Antarctica, the Amazon, and the Arctic Circle, but in The Man Who Couldn’t Stop he journeys into the strange and bewildering mind of the OCD sufferer. Like many people afflicted with obsessive-compulsive disorder, Adam has carried around the heavy burden of shame, reeling from his inability to quell irrational thoughts about contracting AIDS. His goal in writing this book—a bestseller in the UK—was bringing surprisingly common mental condition out of the shadows by surveying the medical research and presenting case studies. We were drawn in by Adam’s lively writing and moved by his honesty and compassion.
In a wide-reaching discussion that spans the spectrum of obsession, Nature editor David Adam strikes an impressive balance between humor and poignancy, and between entertaining and informing. Adam seamlessly moves between personal stories of his own struggles with OCD and case studies of other people with the disorder. He also demonstrates that OCD isn't limited by cultural boundaries, with the chilling story of an Ethiopian girl who ate an entire mud wall and that of Austrian mathematician Kurt G del, whose fear of poisoning led him to starve himself to death. Adam moves from these full-blown cases to more commonplace obsessions with ease, while his smooth prose ensures an enjoyable read. Not neglecting the darker nature of obsession, Adam manages to end on a note more hopeful than harrowing: the story of how he found happiness and relief from OCD.